We’re psyched to get going with Think & Drink in 2016! It may not get the amount of press that the 150th anniversary of the Civil War did, but this year is also the 150th anniversary–of the 14th Amendment, one of the “Reconstruction Amendments” that helped to reshape the United States’ political terrain. The 14th Amendment, in case you don’t remember (we sure had to do some reading up ourselves), focuses on citizenship, due process, and equal protection. And so in 2016, we will take the idea of “citizens” and “citizenship” and dive deeply using activism, art, gender, sex, and more as our lenses.
We have a new MC for this year’s series: Elise Pepple, who is into good conversations. To this end, she has worked for StoryCorps, been a radio host, and frequently talks to strangers. Elise moved to Portland in 2012 to attend the Salt Institute. She teaches storytelling at The Maine College of Art. In her spare time she hosts a live storytelling series called Hear Tell, and is working on a public art project called Portland Brick, a project building public memory.
The 2016 Think & Drink series will be on Wednesdays in February, March, April, and May at SPACE Gallery (538 Congress Street, Portland).
Sex and the Citizen
Wednesday, February 10
6:30 – 8 pm
SPACE Gallery, Portland
By most accounts, “citizenship” is not particularly sexy. And yet sex—and the identities, practices, communities, and cultures attached to it—is very much on the state’s mind when it considers us as citizens (and as non-citizens). From reproductive rights to spousal green cards, income tax credits for married couples and school voucher programs, what counts as pornography and where it can be sold—these are among the wide-ranging questions and issues through which government routinely engages in the regulation of sexuality and gender. At the same time, sexuality and gender have paved the way for many of the most important and dramatic interventions activists, writers, artists, educators, and other thought leaders have made in recent years, transforming broader understandings of equality, civil rights, and what it means to belong to the American civic culture. Same-sex marriage, the trans rights movement, immigration reform: these are among the most notable instances where sexuality and citizenship collide in our present political landscape. “Sex and the Citizen” brings together a diverse panel of experts to lead a discussion encompassing the significant and surprising ways in which sexual politics determine what it means to be a citizen today.
Associate Professor and Chair of Politics, Bates College, Lewiston
Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies, University of Southern Maine
Visual artist and front man of the Portland, Maine based art-punk band Hi Tiger.
Citizenship and Dissent
Wednesday, March 16
6:30 – 8 pm
SPACE Gallery, Portland
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism—or so said Vietnam War protesters. Many of today’s most influential activists, creative workers, and critical intellectuals continue to be guided by this precept. In “Citizenship and Dissent,” our panel will examine dissent as one of the chief arts and most basic rights of citizenship, even when it transgresses the legal norms that govern those rights. In today’s political environment, where is dissent most effectual and where is it most urgently needed? In an era of social media-based organizing and activism, how do we distinguish between dissent and civic participation? What role do today’s college and university campuses play in producing and protecting dissenting citizens, and how do the arts function as a relevant medium of dissenting expression? What possibilities for dissent does post-9/11 American democracy present to non-citizens? We’ll also consider how dissent is being reimagined by the legal and demographic transformations of American democracy in the 21st century, as our citizenry is reshaped by, among other factors, same-sex marriage, the projected racial minoritization of whiteness, and the disappearance of the middle class.
Kyle Patnaude is an artist and educator, combining contemporary sculptural forms with the skill and elegance of precious metalworking. Receiving an MFA from the University of Wisconsin Madison, Kyle is presently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Maine College of Art teaching in both studio courses and contemporary theory.
Melinda Plastas is a visiting assistant professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Bates College. Her research and teaching interests include the politics of race and gender in U.S. women’s social movements.She is currently completing a book about the interracial women’s peace movement in the U.S. after World War I.
Wednesday, April 13
6:30 – 8 pm
SPACE Gallery, Portland
By design, early American citizenship was a profoundly unequal institution. Its founding document is not the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the self-evident truth of human equality, but a Congressional Act—the United States Naturalization Law of 1790. In defining as eligible for naturalized citizenship only those who were legally white, “free”, and of good character, the act excluded both slaves and free blacks, as well as indentured servants, Asians, and indigenous Americans. Even after the race revolutions of Emancipation and Reconstruction, citizenship laws continued to exclude Native Americans and Asians until well into the twentieth century. And not until the Civil Rights Act did federal law intervene to mandate that citizenship in practice live up to its promise.
Even in this era of formal racial, gender, and sexuality-based equality, many Americans have unequal access to the privileges and protections of citizenship . “Unequal Citizens” will examine the persistence of inequality in some of our country’s largest and most influential institutions, where gender, race, or sexuality have impeded the ability of some to fully realize their potential within those institutions. “Unequal Citizens” will examine the persistence of institutional inequality and points of alliance among official and grassroots efforts to transform them.
Brittany Lewis is currently a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow at Bowdoin College in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program. As a specialist in Black feminist thought, theory, and activism, Professor Lewis centers contemporary Black women’s activist experiences as they resist the racialized legacies of housing segregation, redlining, and concentrated poverty.
Sarah Schindler, Professor of Law at University of Maine Law School, is quickly earning a national reputation for her scholarship, which focuses on the intersection of sustainable development and land use law. Two of her recent articles, “Architectural Exclusion” (Yale Law Journal) and “Banning Lawns” (George Washington Law Review) were competitively selected for presentation at the Sabin Colloquium on Innovative Environmental Scholarship at Columbia Law School. Another, “Of Backyard Chickens and Front-yard Gardens: The Conflict Between Local Governments and Locavores” (Tulane Law Review), was selected to be reprinted in the Land Use and Environmental Law Review, an annual, peer-selected compendium of the ten best land use and environmental law articles of the year. She was also named as Pace Environmental Law Center’s Distinguished Young Scholar of 2013. Her articles are widely praised as creative and insightful additions to the fields of local government and land use law.
René Johnson is the Artistic Director of Theater Ensemble of Color, an organization dedicated to breaking down racial, ethnic, gender, age barriers for local non-white performing Artists and to spread racial justice by confronting white privilege, racial bias and stereotypes through performance art. She is originally from South Africa and has lived in Maine for 25 years.
Citizenship and the Climate
Wednesday, May 18
6:30 – 8 pm
SPACE Gallery, Portland
Author and environmental activist Rebecca Solnit has referred to global climate change as a form of “extreme, horrific, longterm, widespread violence.” Systematically, the industrial and consumption practices of the world’s wealthiest nations and many of their leading corporations are creating devastation, drought, and famine the world over, increasing social and economic inequalities both globally and among their own citizens. Leading climate justice activists remind us that environmental crisis today encompasses not just the “universal” problem of alarming and permanent changes to the global ecosystem but also a politics of race, class, nation, and indigeneity. This conversation will allow us to explore these issues, while pushing us to expand our ideas of citizenship and to incorporate ecosystems into our all of our discussions.
Sherri Mitchell was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian reservation. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine, magna cum laude and received her Juris Doctorate and a certificate in Indigenous People’s Law and Policy from the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law. Sherri has been an advocate for Indigenous Rights for more than 20 years.
She was a participant in both the American Indian Ambassador program, and the Udall Native American Congressional Internship program. In 2010, she received the Mahoney Dunn International Human Rights and Humanitarian Award, for research into Human Rights violations against Indigenous Peoples, and she is the 2015 recipient of the Spirit of Maine Award, for commitment and excellence in the field of International Human Rights. Sherri was a longtime advisor to the American Indian Institute’s Healing the Future Program and currently serves as an advisor to the Indigenous Elders and Medicine People’s Council of North and South America. She is also a prolific writer, her work has been included in countless journal, anthologies and publications. And, she speaks and teaches on issues of Indigenous rights, environmental justice and building nonviolent action across the United States and Canada.
Sherri is a practicing attorney. She has worked for the Solicitor of the United States Department of Interior in Washington, D.C.; Frederick, Peebles and Morgan Law Firm in Boulder, Colorado, and; as an educator for the Maine Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division. She also served as the staff Attorney for Pine Tree Legal’s Native American Unit. She has a private law practice in the State of Maine and is the Founding Director of the Land Peace Foundation, an organization dedicated to the protection of Indigenous rights and the preservation of the Indigenous way of life. Sherri is also the cohost of Love (and revolution) Radio, a radio program that highlights heart-based activism and revolutionary change around the world.
Meaghan LaSala is chair of the board of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center, a member organization building a movement for the human rights of poor and working class people in Maine. Representing the Workers’ Center, she traveled to Paris in December during the UN COP 21 with a delegation called “It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm,” made up of 100+ frontline leaders demanding community-rooted solutions to climate change and emissions cuts at the source.
She is a co-founder of Maine Students for Climate Justice, a statewide student network working to build power among students in solidarity with communities at the frontlines of the climate crisis. As a student at the University of Southern Maine, Meaghan organized against austerity with the group Students for #USMfuture, and was a leader with Divest UMaine, a group that successfully pressured the University of Maine System to divest their direct holdings from coal companies.
She is also a freelance journalist, whose work has appeared in Yes! Magazine, Truth-Out, Dispatch, Salon and Alternet.
Meaghan grew up in New Jersey and moved to Maine in 2007. She thinks a lot about the power and the challenges of place-based organizing for racial and economic justice, and how to approach that work from her position as a white, queer, low-income person from an upper-middle class background.